Legislation is popping up in states with a crafty sales pitch promising that students can go to college for free now, and pay later for their education using a percentage of their income, over a set number of years. One of the many problems with these so-called “Pay It Forward” proposals is that they don’t address the real problem, which is that college costs are too darn high.
Pay It Forward (PIF) proposals are generally structured so that students pay no tuition up front or while in college. But the catch is that to receive that “free” tuition students must pay back a percentage of their income (say, 4 percent) over a defined numbers of years (say, 24 years). It sounds good at first, but when you look underneath its rosy exterior there are a number of flaws, including the fact that because students pay a percentage of their income (regardless of what it costs to go to school), they may end up paying back more than their actual cost of attending college.
Despite the shortcomings, the idea is catching on. Oregon passed a bill to study the idea of implementing PIF, and other states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Vermont, also have seen legislation introduced to study the concept. Policy makers concerned about the rising costs of college should make sure their proposals actually address the college affordability crisis, not simply find a way to spread the costs of college out over a student’s lifetime.
Stand with us, and tell your legislator “No!” to policies like “Pay It Forward” that shift costs onto students!
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